January 14, 2013
Beijing Fine Particulate Air Pollution Levels Reach Record Levels
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
Chinese government officials warned that residents of Beijing should remain indoors on Sunday as the city´s notoriously poor quality air reached levels that far exceeded those deemed safe by health experts.According to Louise Watt of the Associated Press (AP), the website of the Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center reported that the density of particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometers in size (PM2.5 particulates) had topped the 700 microgram per cubic meter level in several parts of the city.
“The World Health Organization (WHO) considers a safe daily level to be 25 micrograms per cubic meter,” Watt added.
Furthermore, according to Los Angeles Times reporter Barbara Demick, measurements from the US embassy in Beijing recorded the fine particulate matter at 886 micrograms per cubic meter. That would make it the highest levels recorded in the six years that PM2.5 particulates have been measured, she added.
Similarly, Wayne Ma of the Wall Street Journal called it the “worst air pollution” to hit Beijing “in recent memory.”
Ma added that government officials “called for residents to stay home and avoid exercising outside,” and “for the first time activated a new plan restricting construction and industrial activity, curbing vehicle use by government officials and ordering schools to limit outside activity.”
The pollution was reportedly expected to remain high until the middle of this week.
“While in the past the Chinese government has criticized the embassy for scaremongering, their own monitors over the weekend gave readings that were also dire, showing pollution as hazardous in 33 cities,” Demick said. Zhao Zhangyuan of the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences (CRAES) told the Times reporter that the pollution levels were “unprecedented” that this weekend was “the first time in China´s history we have seen it this bad.”
According to Ma, the WHO warns that chronic exposure to these particulates can be a contributing factor in the development of lung cancer, other respiratory ailments, or cardiovascular disease.
“Weather conditions are a factor in the recent poor air quality, as a lack of wind means pollutants can easily accumulate and fail to dissipate, said Pan Xiao Chuan, a professor at Peking University's public health department,” Watt said.
“Air pollution is a major problem in China due to the country's rapid pace of industrialization, reliance on coal power, explosive growth in car ownership and disregard to environmental laws. It typically gets worse in the winter because of heating needs,” she added. “Several other cities, including Tianjin on the coast east of Beijing and southern China's Wuhan city, also reported severe pollution over the last several days.”